From Occupy Wall Street to Occupying the Academy: Three Interventions from One Demonstration
Earley, Amanda Jenny Layne
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This primary purpose of this project was to further understand and theorize the meaning of Occupy Wall Street. Beyond that, the goal was to advance extant theorizations of the nature of economic justice movements more broadly. In order to achieve these goals, the theoretical lens of political philosophy is adopted. The dissertation starts with a brief introduction, which explains the rationale behind this choice, and begins the work of contextualizing the movement. The next chapter is a conceptual piece, which explains the utility of political philosophy in greater depth. Here, the discussion is framed in terms of the consumer culture theory literature, but the framework offered has relevance far beyond this discipline. Here, Badiou’s work on the event and subjectivity are employed, and it is argued that this provides an excellent theorization of how consumer culture operates—as well as resistance to consumer culture. The third chapter starts with a review of past discussions of consumer activism, and explains how the current framework can productively advance knowledge in the field. A Badiouian critical discourse analysis provides a great deal of insight into how individuals become committed to activist movements; how it changes their ethics; how it influences their choice of strategies; and how activism could lead to sustained social change. The final chapter critically interrogates the idea that marketing tactics should be used by social movements. Occupy Wall Street provides an ideal context for testing the limits of this argument, as it is simultaneously anti-marketing, as well as a movement where some protestors adhere to this idea that movements should be marketed. This chapter raises serious questions about the applicability of marketing techniques not only in this context, but also in many non-profit, social, governmental, and even for-profit contexts. In the end, it is my hope that this project provides a better understanding of politics and social movements not only for academics, but also for activists. The study presents important findings about the nature of consumer culture, and consequently the nature of strategies that are necessary for those who contest it.